E-Mails Reveal a Fallen Soldier's Story
His war experiences fueled his obsessive reading. "Philosophy has kept me grounded in conjunction with the things that I have seen in my life that have changed me drastically," he told me. His family and friends joke that they'd ask Griffin to send them reading lists before seeing him just so that they could keep up with his conversations. "He would come into the store and regularly drop a few hundred dollars on books," says Michael Smythe, the manager of Griffin's favorite bookstore, who spoke at his funeral.
While the books were helping him think, events on the ground were changing him. "I can't wait to see you guys," he wrote home to his father in April 2005. "I will not be right for sometime when all this is over. I have done some things that will haunt me for a long time to come and pray that G-d will forgive me for having done them. Let's just say that the enemy can start to appear in the very people that you are here to 'help.'"
Many of the soldiers in Iraq carry cameras. One in the 2-3 went into battle with a Canon slr strapped in a pouchlike holster on his thigh. Griffin went through three digital cameras during his two tours, once running through a hail of enemy bullets to fetch one he'd dropped in the sand. "I hope, in the long run, that those pictures will help this generation to deal with whatever will have to be dealt with in the aftermath of this thing," says Huggins, reflecting on the thousands of personal pictures that his soldiers have taken. "They will certainly never forget the things that they have done here."
When Griffin was home in Fort Lewis, Wash., between his first and second deployments, Diana would sometimes find her husband with head lowered, crying. "He had a slightly harder heart when he came back," she said. "He wanted to appear unchanged by what he had seen. All I could do was keep telling him that it was ok either way."
Griffin was first deployed with a Stryker unit from the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. On Jan. 3, 2005, in Tal Afar, his unit was called from its base in an old castle to head into the city to deal with the body of an Iraqi policeman's son, who had been beheaded.
We took some Iraqi cops to the scene and did in fact see a headless body with the head carefully stacked on top of the chest with the body lying flat on the ground. The police officers (3) went up to the body to identify it while security was maintained for them by us. Before they got within 8 ft. of the body, the body exploded and killed one while injuring severely the others ... We took the torso back to the castle where we have been for awhile and had to unzip the body bag so that other family members could identify the lower half by the shoes he was wearing.